Scholars and their freedom of opinion

Some have expressed the ‘opinion’ that we should all be properly grateful that people express a point of view, even if they do not enter into a debate with the readers, and that the reader should either take this or leave it. Such opinions are based on either a shallow or wrong understanding of what the ‘freedom’ to express one’s opinion is all about. The legal system does not allow one to ‘simply’ express one’s point of view and ‘leave it at that’: the existence of defamation suits is ample testimony to this. In countries in Europe, there are legal guidelines about marketing and advertisement: one cannot simply advertise one’s product ‘in any which way’. In cases which have engaged people’s passions, those who write columns are also bound by ethical obligations to respond. Jeffrey Kripal and Patrick Hogan are teachers who have the moral and social task of forming and educating young minds. They cannot simply express a point of view and ‘leave it at that’. Their teaching must be based on rational grounds. When challenged precisely on these grounds by a layer in society, they have the ethical obligation to respond. They also claim to be intellectuals and this entails that they act as such: defend their ‘points of view’ by providing reasonable arguments. When the latter is challenged, the demands of rationality oblige them to respond. For whatever it is worth, they appeal to their membership in the academia as researches and scientists too. This membership obliges them to respond to criticisms: without criticism, there is no possibility of growth of knowledge. So on and so forth. May I therefore kindly request the advocates of free speech to hold their peace, and that they catch up with their reading of Law and Ethics before they preach sermons to the rest of us?

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